Indo-Scythians in Indian literature


Indo-Scythians in Indian literature

The Indo-Scythians were named "Shaka" in India, an extension on the name Saka used by the Persians to designate Scythians. From the time of the Mahabharata wars (1500-500 BCE) Shakas receive numerous mentions in texts like the Puranas, the Manusmriti, the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, the Mahabhasiya of Patanjali, the Brhat Samhita of Vraha Mihira, the Kavyamimamsa, the Brihat-Katha-Manjari, the Katha-Saritsagara and several other old texts. They are described as part of an amalgam of other war-like tribes from the northwest.

"Degraded Kshatriyas" from the northwest

The Manusmriti, written about CE, groups the Shakas with the Yavanas, Kambojas, Paradas, Pahlavas, Kiratas and the Daradas etc..., and addresses them all as degraded warriors, or Kshatriyas (X/43-44). Anushasanaparava of the Mahabharata also views the Shakas, Kambojas, Yavanas etc. in the same light. Patanjali in his Mahabhasya regards the Shakas and Yavanas as pure Shudras (II.4.10).

The Vartika of the Katyayana informs us that the kings of the Shakas and the Yavanas, like those of the Kambojas, may also be addressed by their respective tribal names.

symbol.
Rev: Standing king, being crowned by the goddess Tyche.] The Mahabharata also associates the Shakas with the Yavanas, Gandharas, Kambojas, Pahlavas, Tusharas, Sabaras, Barbaras etc and addresses them all as the Barbaric tribes of Uttarapatha. In another verse, the epic groups the Shakas Kambojas and Khashas and addresses them as the tribes from Udichya i.e. north division (5/169/20). Also, the Kishkindha Kanda of the Ramayana locates the Shakas, Kambojas, Yavanas and Paradas in the extreme north-west beyond the Himavat (i.e. Hindukush) (43/12).

The Udyogaparava of the Mahabharata (5/19/21-23) tells us that the composite army of the Kambojas, Yavanas and Shakas had participated in the Mahabharata war under the supreme command of Sudakshina Kamboja. The epic repeatedly applauds this composite army as being very fierce and wrathful.

Invasion of India (180 BCE onward)

The Vanaparava of the Mahabharata contains verses in the form of prophecy that the kings of the Shakas, Yavanas, Kambojas, Bahlikas and Abhiras, etc. shall rule unrighteously in Kaliyuga (MBH 3/188/34-36).

This reference apparently alludes to the precarious political scenario following the collapse of Mauryan and Sunga dynasties in northern India and its occupation by foreign hordes of the Shakas, Yavanas, Kambojas and Pahlavas.

Mahabharata references

"Udyoga Parva" of Mahabharata groups the Shakas, Pahlavas, Paradas with the ‘’Kamboja-rishikas’’ and attests them as living on sea-shore in western India. [. :Shakanam pahlavana.n cha daradanam cha ye nripah :Kambojarishika ye cha pashchimanupakash cha ye :(MBH 5/5/15.) ] Again "Udyoga Parava" of Mahabharata lists the Shakas, Kambojas and the Khashas together and calls them as tribes of Udichya or Uttarapatha. [ Udichya Kamboja Shakaih Khashaish cha (MBH 5/159/20) .] The Shanti Parva of Mahabharata also associates the Shakas with the Kambojas, Yavanas, Gandharas, Pahlavas, Tusharas, Sabaras, Barbaras, etc. and addresses them all as the Barbaric tribes of Uttarapatha. [Mahabharata 12.65.13-14] More importantly, the Shaka army had joined the Kamboja army and together they had participated in the Kurukshetra war under single and supreme command of Sudakshina Kamboja. [:vibhuuamana vatena bahurupa ivambudah/ :Sudakshinashcha Kambojo yavanaishcha shakaistatha|| 21 :upajagama kauravyamakshauhinya visham pate | :tasya sena samavayah shalabhanamivababhau ||22 (MBH 5/19/21-22).]

Ramayana references

Kishkindha Kanda Sarga 43 of Valmiki Ramayana collocates the Kambojas with the Shakas, Yavanas, Paradas and the Uttarakurus in the extreme northwest. The Yavanas are in (Bactria) and Kambojas in Tajikstan, the Paradas are on river Sailoda in Xinjiang province of China. The Uttarakurus lie beyond the Pamirs. The Shakas of the Ramayana obviously refer to the Shakas of Issyk-kul Lake lying beyond Suguda. [

:Kaamboja Yavanaan caiva Shakaan pattanaani ca | :Anvikshya Varadaan caiva Himavantam vicinvatha || 12 || :(Ramayana 4.43.12).] Adi-Kanda of the Ramayana, [Ramayana 1/55/2-3] tells us that the Kambojas, Shakas, Pahlavas and some other allied tribes from northwest were 'created' at the request of sage Vasishta by the Divine cow Shavala to defend Vasishta sage from the forces of king Vishwamitra (Dr B. C. Law). All these Ramayanic references seem to closely connect the Kambojas and the Shakas together.

Puranic references

Harivamsa Purana [14.01-19] and other Puranic literature [e.g Vayu Purana 88.127-43; Brahma Purana (8.35-51); Brahamanda Purana (3.63.123-141); Shiva Purana (7.61.23); Vishnu Purana (5.3.15-21), Padama Purana (6.21.16-33) etc etc. ] attest that Iksvaku king Bahu of Ayodhya was driven out of his dominions by Haihayas and Talajanghas with the assistance of Shakas, Kambojas, Yavanas, Pahlavas and Paradas Ayudhajivin Kshatriyas from Uttarapatha, popularly known as "five hordes" ("ganah pāñca"). [Ete hyapi 'ganah pancha' haihayarthe parakraman... (Brahama Purana 8.36).]

Kalika Purana, one of the Upa-Puranas of the Hindus, refers to a war between Brahmanical king "Kalika" (supposed to be Pusyamitra Sunga) and Buddhist king "Kali" (supposed to be Maurya king Brihadratha (187-180 BCE)) and states the "Shakas, Kambojas, Khasas", etc together as a powerful military allies of king Kali. The Purana further states that these Barbarians "take the orders from their women". [Ref: Kalika Purana, III(6), 22-40).]

The "Bhuvanakosha section" of Puranic texts also lists the Kambojas with the Shakas, Paradas, Yavanas, Bahlikas, Sindhus, Soviras, Madrakas, Kekayas etc and place then all in the "Udychya" or northwest division.

Manusmiriti reference

Manusmriti places the Shakas with the Kambojas, Yavanas, Pahlavas, Paradas and labels them all as degraded Kshatriyas defying the Brahmanical codes and rituals. [Manusmiriti X.43-44]

Mahabharata, too similarly groups the Shakas with the Kambojas and Yavanas and states that they were originally noble Kshatriyas but got degraded to "vrishala" status on account of their non-observance of the sacred Brahmanical codes. [Mahabharata 13/33/20-2.]

Mudrarakshas reference

The Buddhist drama Mudrarakshas by Visakhadutta and the Jaina works Parisishtaparvan refer to Chandragupta's alliance with Himalayan king Parvatka. This Himalayan alliance gave Chandragupta a powerful composite army made up of the north western tribes including the Shakas, Kambojas, Yavanas, Parasikas, Bahlikas etc. [Mudrarakshas, II.]

Other references

In the Brihat Katha of Pt. Kshmendra, Vedic king Vikramaditya had fought with the joint mlechcha forces of the Shakas, Kambojas, Hunas, Sabaras, Tusharas, Parasikas and had destroyed them completely. [Brhatkatha 10.1.285-86]

The "Vartika" of the Katyayana on Panini's Ashtadhyayi informs us that the kings of the Shakas and the Yavanas, like those of the Kambojas may similarly be addressed by their respective tribal names. ["Kambojadhybya iti vachyam" Vartika (Katyayana); See: Some Kshatriya Tribes of Ancient India, 1924, p 234, Dr B. C. Law]

There are numerous more similar references in ancient Sanskrit literature where the Kambojas and Shakas are listed together. All these references amply prove that the Shakas were closely allied to the Kambojas and both were living as close neighbors in the extreme of northwest division of ancient India.

Military actions

Ancient wars

According to numerous Puranas, the military corporations of the Shakas, Yavanas, Kambojas, Pahlavas and Paradas, known as "five hordes" ("pānca-ganah"), had militarily supported the Haihaya and Talajunga Kshatriyas in depriving Ikshvaku king Bahu (the 7th king in descent from Harishchandra), of his Ayodhya kingdom.

A generation later, Bahu's son Sagara managed to recapture Ayodhya after defeating these foreign hordes. Sagara punished them by meting out to them weird punishments. He made the Shakas shave half of their heads, the Kambojas and the Yavanas the totality, the Pahlavas to keep their beards and the Paradas to let their hair go free.

The Kalika Purana, one of the Upa-Puranas of the Hindus, refers to a war between Brahmanical king "Kalika" (supposed to be Pusyamitra Sunga) and Buddhist king "Kali" (supposed to be Maurya king Brihadratha (187-180 BC)) and states the "Shakas, Kambojas, Khasas", etc. as a powerful military allies of king Kali. The Purana further states that these Barbarians "take the orders from their women" (Ref: Kalika Purana, III(6), 22-40).

The Balakanda of the Ramayana also groups the Shakas with the Kambojas, Yavanas, Pahlavas and Mlechhas and refers to them as military allies of sage Vashistha against Vedic king Vishwamitra (55/2-3).

The Udyogaparva of the Mahabharata (5/19/21-23) tells us that the composite army of the Kambojas, Yavanas and Shakas had participated in the Mahabharata war under the supreme command of Kamboja king Sudakshina. The epic repeatedly applauds this composite army as being very fierce and wrathful.

Military alliance with Chandragupta (circa 320 BC)

The Buddhist drama Mudrarakshas by Visakhadutta and the Jaina works Parisishtaparvan refer to Chandragupta's alliance with Himalayan king Parvataka.

This Himalayan alliance gave Chandragupta a powerful composite army made up of the frontier martial tribes of the Shakas, Kambojas, Yavanas, Parasikas, Bahlikas etc which he utilised to defeat the Nanda rulers of Magadha, and thus establishing his Mauryan Empire in northern India (See: Mudrarakshas, II).

Invasion of India (circa 180 BC)

The Vanaparva of the Mahabharata contains verses in the form of prophecy that the kings of the Shakas, Yavanas, Kambojas, Bahlikas and Abhiras etc shall rule unrighteously in Kaliyuga (MBH 3/188/34-36).

This reference apparently alludes to the precarious political scenario following the collapse of Mauryan and Sunga dynasties in northern India and its occupation by foreign hordes of the Shakas, Yavanas, Kambojas and Pahlavas.

Extinction

The Brihat-Katha-Manjari of the Kshemendra (10/1/285-86) relates that around 400 AD, the Gupta king Vikramaditya (Chandragupta II) had "unburdened the sacred earth of the barbarians" like the Shakas, Mlecchas, Kambojas, Yavanas, Tusharas, Parasikas, Hunas, etc., by annihilating these "sinners" completely.

The 10th century "Kavyamimamsa" of Raj Shekhar (Ch. 17) still lists the Sakas, Tusharas, Vokanas, Hunas, Kambojas, Bahlikas, Pahlavas, Tangana, Turukshas, etc. together, and states them as the tribes located in the Uttarapatha division.

ee also

*Kambojas in Indian literature
*Ancient India and Central Asia

References


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